Saturday, July 23, 2011

Mahimahi with Pineapple Rum Chutney

Yes, you read that right. There is rum involved...and it is a little spicy...and it is generally wonderful if you like fish (which you should because if not, you are so MISSING out!)

The chutney is your focal point here and the most involved...so let's start there. You may not have a designated 'sauce pan' like I do, which is ok, so use a deeper saute pan and set the heat to medium. Pour in some grape seed oil or canola oil (your call, just avoid olive for this recipe) and then add in 1 cup of finely diced onion, 1.5 tbsp of minced ginger, 1 minced clove of garlic and 2 tsps of a seeded habanero pepper, minced. Let this cook over the medium heat and stir constantly. After about 3-5 minutes, you want to add in some gold rum. Now this I don't measure....I just pour....but believe me, your nostrils will be on fire if you start to pour in too much! The liquid will evaporate within a minute or less, at this point, you add the juice from 1/2 a large lime, or about 2 tbsps, and 1/2 cup brown sugar (brown sugar splenda works just fine). Lastly, you stir in the can of crushed pineapple and let it all thicken over a lower heat for another 15 minutes; you can also add in a tbsp of cilantro at the end - I do - but many people dislike this spice. Though again, in this recipe, I promise it is worth it for the overall flavor.

For the fish, there is no need to season it as you'll be pairing it with the chutney, which brings enough flavor to the dish. Simply grill the cuts of mahimahi for about five minutes per side (depending on thickness) - ours were fairly thick as you can see below. If you are a) crazy and don't like mahimahi you could potentially make this with another white fish, maybe a orange roughy, or be a hedonist and make it  with chicken or pork; if you are b) unable to find decent mahimahi, see above, but know that I will reserve judgement due to your geographical issues.


Give the chutney - which should still be warm over low, low heat - one last stir and then spoon it out onto the fish.

We served it with brown jasmine rice and some edamame...mmmmm.

- Melissa

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Fig, Pear and Goat Cheese Salad

This one is ideal for mid-summer and throughout the fall. Since I live in the PNW, it is sort of always late fall, weather-wise, so my apologies if I am jumping the gun making this in July. Deal with it, I swear it is delicious and good to make starting when you can find figs in the store....which is now as currently there are green (Kadota) figs out in the markets, and the best Black Mission figs (which I used in this recipe) are starting to pop up too.


You want to use mixed Spring greens, and whether you acquire them from a bag, a container or tear up three different heads of greens to get there is your prerogative. Arrange it on a plate after rinsing and then turn your attention to the vinaigrette - did I mention I also made that from scratch?

Anyway, to make this dressing properly you need to remember to 'taste' as you mix, ok? For starters mix 1/3 cup dry white wine, 2 tsps of dijon mustard, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 minced clove of garlic or a spoonful from your easy jar in the fridge, and then 1/3 cup vinegar. Now to be fair, I used pear-infused balsamic vinegar. As you are not all as crazy as me, let's go ahead and use regular balsamic and get all of our pear flavor from the actual pear (how boring!). Now the reason I say to taste is that I never measure when making vinaigrette even though I make them frequently. So if you taste it and it seems oily, you want to add more dijon and/or more vinegar. If it is too tart, try a pinch of sugar/splenda to cut the acidity in the vinegar. I'd refrain from adding much more oil, so try to adjust the other ingredients first.

Now you want to slice up your Anjou pear and then heat a small skillet to medium heat. Once the pan is hot, pour just a little of the pear-infused balsamic in (again, regular balsamic will suffice if your pantry is not as ridiculous as mine) and then cook the pear slices for a few minutes, turning them at least once. You want them to absorb the vinegar, get warm and a little soft - but you don't want mushy pear!

Now slice your figs in half and then you can arrange them any which way you choose on the plate - I choose to outline the circumference of the salad with them. Crumble the goat cheese across the salad and then lay the sauteed pear slices atop that with their juices from the pan. Lastly, drizzle the entire plate with the vinaigrette and serve.

- Melissa

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Super Seattle Center Spot for Drinks!

So this is not a recipe...unless you are a mixologist by trade and want to try your hand at the couple drinks I want to share with you...all of which were made by a bartender and not me. Anyway, next time you are in Seattle I urge you to stop into Tini Bigs (100 Denny Way) which is open 365 days a year, from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. So no excuses as to why you missed a happy hour here, got it??

Anyway, the deal with this place is that it is a bar. Sure, they have a menu with food...but I'm not recommending you travel there to eat. You travel there to drink in a dimly lit bar filled with black lacquered booths, tables and chairs. And you love it for that.

Left, Dirty Vodka Martini. Right, John Wayne Manhattan.
 First up, I played it safe and had my boring Dirty Vodka martini, though I will say it was properly 'dirty', i.e., not too little or too much brine. T, however, was more adventurous and ordered the John Wayne Manhattan - bourbon, amaretto, orange bitters and an orange twist. He was not disappointed and said that while it was like a typical Manhattan, the extra orange emphasis really made it into an entirely new drink.

Best part is that if you're unsure what you want, you can tell the skilled bartenders what you like (let's say tequila with a spicy kick - my personal go-to) and they will point you in the right direction OR make you a unique drink.
The color-coded Martini specials...Pike Place infusion promises a good time in a glass.
Unfortunately for us, we were there after 6 p.m. and did not get to really partake in the special happy hour drinks, but I was smart enough to snag a quick photo so that you could all see what they have to offer...which is bright colors of the rainbow. Personally, I am going to make a trip back just to try the Pike Place Infusion, which actually involves staff at the bar taking a daily trip to the market and seeing what fresh and exciting ingredients for a cocktail they can get their hands on. Can you say awesome?

Bottoms up!

- Melissa

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fennel and Tomato Risotto with Sausage

Let me start by telling you that my father-in-law, who recently visited and often is not as adventurous of an eater as myself or Tim, loved this dish! In fact, he told me numerous times how good it was...so if you are thinking it sounds weird or that it might not be worth the work, you're wrong on both counts! 

To start you need to find a fresh fennel bulb - jarred fennel will just not work - and that makes this integral to the meal. So, first, go to a decent grocery and get one. 

Once you've secured your fennel, you'll need to start off my making the risotto as it takes the longest. Turn the heat on high for one burner and place a large pot on it; once that is hot enough to make oil sizzle, add some olive oil, about enough to coat the pan, and some smashed garlic and minced onion. Then you want to pour in a cup of arborrio rice (which is one of the grains that can be used to make risotto - it is the easiest to find in a decent store). Next place a smaller saucepan on another burner and slowly heat up 4 cups of chicken broth. Once the rice grains are coated in the oil, garlic, onion mixture, turn down the heat to medium (about a 4 or 5 on an electric stove) then you want to add a little saffron,      a large pinch of this pricey spice will go a LONG way, and turn the contents a delightful bright gold color.

Next is the really crucial step when making risotto and what people most often a) mess up and b) decide is too labor intensive. You need to begin to pour SOME of the heated broth in. Now the broth should be warm, but NOT boiling which would be bad. In fact, the risotto and the broth should never be boiling. So anyway, you begin by pouring some of the broth in and continue to stir it all around. Every 5-10 minutes, as the risotto dries out and the liquid is absorbed, pour more broth in. In total you will use about 4 or 5 cups of broth and maybe 1 or 2 cups of water…all of which gets heated in the smaller pan.

Now in another wider pan, start out over a medium heat and add a little olive oil, then either diced tomatoes OR halved grape tomatoes (which is what I used) and the minced fennel. Note: with the fennel bulb, you want to cut off the top stalks removing all the green and then the entire white part is useable. Sauté this all together, let it soften then cover the pan up and keep it over super low heat for a bit. 



After the risotto has been absorbing liquid and softening for about 30-35 minutes, slap the Italian sausage (your choice on spicy, regular, sweet, etc.; I used some handmade regular Italian that has just a little spice to it) on the grill. Then when you think you have at least 10 minutes left on the sausage, spoon the fennel and tomatoes into the risotto pot and stir it all in together. If there is still broth left, pour the rest of that in too. 

While this has all been stewing together and blending flavors, your sausage should be just about done on the grill. Bring that in, let it sit under foil for a few minutes and then slice it up into bite size pieces. 

Finally you mix the risotto mixture in with your sliced sausage, grate some Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (or whatever breed of Parmesan you have) and tear a few basil leaves for good measure. 

Mangia!

- Melissa 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Lasagna

Ok - for those of you who are purists, just keep an open mind.  A few months ago, Erin H., our friend and avid blog follower, forwarded me this recipe.  We were honest and said we wanted to try it first before we shared it with the world (or at least our little food-following world).  Chris and I were skeptical, but we stuck to our foodie guns and made it for dinner this past Monday night.  We were pleasantly surprised!



It has less of a buffalo taste than I expected, but we cooked the chicken fully and then added the sauce - next time we'll add half of the buffalo sauce to the chicken while it's cooking.  Also, I didn't read the recipe before I decided to make it, so I have some other ideas to pump up that buffalo flavor.

Recipe:
12 Lasagna Noodles (whole wheat if you're trying to get some healthy whole grains in your diet)
1 lb chicken (we used ground chicken in this meal but I feel like roasted, shredded chicken would be awesome!)
3 Cups of your favorite pasta sauce
1 cup of buffalo wing sauce
1.5 cups of water
1 container of ricotta cheese (fat content selected to your preferences)
2 eggs
9 pepper jack cheese slices

Preheat the oven to 350.  Cook the chicken until it's almost done, then stir in the sauces and water.  (Note - as I stated above, you can add 1/2 the buffalo sauce to the chicken immediately while it cooks, then add the other sauces)
In a separate small bowl, combine ricotta cheese and eggs.
Spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick spray.
Spread 1 cup of sauce into the pan.
Arrange 4 noodles into the pan.
Spread another layer of sauce.
Add a layer of the cheese mixture.
Alternate sauce, noodles, sauce, cheese until you have a delicious looking lasagna and bake for 70 minutes.

Place the pepper jack cheese slices on top and bake for another 15 minutes or until browned and bubbly.  It will be super hot!! Let it cool off.

Anyway, some other suggestions are to throw a little blue cheese into the ricotta/egg mixture.  You can use a bunch of different types of cheeses on top of the lasagna in place of the pepper jack.  (I personally think mozzarella would be awesome) This makes a big tray of lasagna, so I suggest having a number of people to feed or Erin says that it freezes well. Thanks, Erin!!!!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Stuffed Lamb Tomatoes

This is an oldie but a goodie in my book. If you like lamb...these will make you so happy! 





First carve out your tomatoes (like you would for stuffed peppers) and keep the insides. Chop that up, it'll go in with the 'stuffing'. Salt the tomato shells and lie them out in a pyrex dish. Start making the rice on the stove, but use a little less water than usual since you want it half-cooked and sort of dry before it gets added to other things.

In a large (read: deep) skillet heat some olive oil, then add six cloves of minced garlic and about 1/2 cup chopped onion and saute until it is slightly browned. Next add the lamb - about 3/4 lb. to 1 lb. - and cook for about five minutes until it starts to brown. Then add 1/2 cup dry red wine, about half a can of tomato paste and the tomato insides from before.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees! Don't forget this part - it is sort of important.

Stir the lamb until some of the liquid has evaporated and then add in the rice and about 1/2 - 1 cup more water, depending on how cooked the rice is thus far. Bring this entire mixture to a boil and let it simmer for a few minutes. Finally add in a mixed 2/3 cup of chopped parsley, dill and mint (jar spices are totally acceptable in this recipe, though the fresh mint is really to die for).

Use a slotted spoon and fill the tomato shells. Take the excess liquid and pour it around the tomatoes in the pyrex dish. Drizzle with a touch more olive oil and then cover with foil and bake for about 25 minutes. Check on them then and, if you want, sprinkle some feta on the tops of the tomatoes (I totally encourage it). Bake for another 10 minutes or so and then let them cool before serving.



- Melissa

Bright, Quick & Easy Caprese and Garlicky Green Beans

Hello! I have not run away OR stopped cooking, just have had house guests and been running ragged entertaining, etc. However, it does mean that I have made some good things and dined out a few times, so you will reap the benefits in the end.

First up, this quick (yet so pretty!) veggie side of Caprese salad and lightly roasted green beans. The genesis of this was my not having bought as many fresh green beans as I thought...and then needing to 'stretch' the veggie component of our meal further. So I noticed some ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and of course my flourishing basil window...and Caprese salad (which is just a combination of those three things plus balsamic vinegar and perhaps olive oil) sprang to mind.

My spices that I struggle to keep alive!
First I needed to make my green beans, so I got a deep saucepan VERY hot and then added olive oil, crushed garlic (a healthy amount here, say at least 2-3 cloves, if not  more) and let the two cook together for a few minutes. Then I toss the green beans in (note: after trimming and rinsing the beans, I squeeze half a lemon over them and let them sit) and let them sizzle away. Just remember to keep tossing them around with tongs and making sure the oil and garlic mixture is fully covering every bean. You don't want to cook them for longer than five to seven minutes at high heat since you want them crispy. If you do need to stall for the main dish, just turn the heat to low - but don't cover the pan. That is a sure way to soften the beans. I also added in some sundried tomatoes, dry ones from a bag, not the oil in a jar kind. I tossed them in the last two minutes with the beans so they were still flavorful and chewy.

In the meantime, I began to arrange my Caprese stacks; slice of tomato, then a basil leaf (no need to tear/chop them and oh yeah, NO jar basil allowed for this!), then the slice of fresh mozzarella. Cover with drizzled balsamic and fresh cracked pepper.


Arrange artfully and enjoy!

- Melissa

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Mango Salsa and Cilantro-Lime Rice

Hello again friends, it is time to continue the "summer grilling" legacy with an easy and delicious one.  This recipe is simple enough that even the meek and timid "grill master" can complete it with ease.  This recipe makes enough for four people to have two tacos each, with a side of rice.  (8 tacos and rice for all.)

Here is what you will need for the tacos.

1 Lb. of Large Shrimp (I peel and check for the "vein" before I grill them.)
8 - 6" Flour Tortillas

Place the shrimp on skewers and grill them at 400-425 for 2-3 minutes on each side.  When they are cooked, they will turn a pinkish orange color.

Here is what you will need for the salsa.

2-3 Mangoes
1-2 Jalapeños (Actually a fruit!)
1/2 C. Red Onion
2 Tbsp. of Fresh Cilantro (For some reason I cannot grow cilantro and it really upsets me.)

Cut the mango into small cubes.  Dice both the jalapeños and the red onion.  Chop the parsley and combine all of the ingredients.  (If you eat as much mango as I do then getting a mango pitter is a solid investment.  Williams-Sonoma sells one by OXO that does a great job.)

Here is what you will need for the rice.

1 C. of Jasmine Rice
2 C. of Chicken Broth
The Juice of One Lime with a Pinch of Kosher Salt Mixed
1-2 Tbsp. of Cilantro
1 Tbsp. of Vegtable Oil

Place the oil in a small sauce pot and add the rice.  Toast the rice in the oil on medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until you can smell the rice begin to toast.  Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover.  Let the rice simmer for 12-15 minutes or until all the broth is absorbed.  Remove from heat and just before serving add the lime juice-kosher salt mixture with the the cilantro, mix and serve.

Warm the tortillas on the grill, add the shrimp, garnish with salsa, enjoy!!


- Chris (Shrimp, Salsa, & Tortillas) & Danielle (Rice)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Jalapeno and Basil Burgers with Fresh Mozzarella & Balsamic Vinegar

Yup, another burger post. I know it seems like we are constantly making them...but we got a burgers-only cookbook and it is summer and well, admittedly, we do like them. So this one was from a recipe for a jalapeno and basil burger - but we sort of kicked it up a notch with a Caprese twist figuring that we already had basil in the mix. So we added tomato, fresh mozzarella and rather than use ketchup, we doused the burgers with balsamic vinegar.

So mix 2 lbs of ground beef with 2 chopped jalapenos, 1/4 cup chopped basil leaves and 4 minced garlic cloves. Once that is all mixed together, add in about 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar. Let the patties sit in the fridge for at least an hour so they 'set' and then throw those spicy specimens on the grill. Note: for grilling advice, see previous posts...but suffice to say, about 6 minutes a side ought to do it.


Once your burgers are ready to go, place them on a bun and then slice some fresh mozzarella (you can surely use regular mozzarella - especially since it winds up melting once atop the hot burger) to place on the burger. If the burger doesn't have enough balsamic taste for you, feel free to drizzle more across the burger and let it absorb into the bun. Then dress with tomatoes and lettuce (optional - in fact, I said no to lettuce, this is T's plate pictured above) and enjoy!

- Melissa & Tim

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Summertime Strawberry Daiquiris

One of the best gifts that my beautiful wife ever gave me was a Margaritaville Iced Drink Machine.  I have used this machine to test and perfect many different drinks and tonight, I found the perfect Strawberry Daiquiri.  This drink tastes like a strawberry fruit roll-up and is the perfect drink for a warm summer night on the deck.  (We may or may not be doing that exact thing right now.)  This recipe will make 4 drinks in the traditional margarita style glass, as pictured. 

Here is what you will need:

4.5 - 5 Fl. Oz. of Bacardi Dragonberry Rum
3 Tbsp. of Sugar
9 Oz. of Cranberry Juice (Unsweetened if you prefer a little tartness.)
2 C. of Frozen Strawberries
(If you are using a blender use 1-2 C. of ice depending on how you would like the consistency.)

Directions:

Add all ingredients and if you are using the machine like I am, set the ice setting on Daiquiri, 2 glasses, and flip the switch.  If using a blender, add contents and blend until smooth.  Serve and enjoy!!


-Chris

Akasaka Restaurant - The Best Sushi In Northern Virginia!

To change things up a bit, I decided to share some of my favorite places to eat with you.  Living in Hawaii for 7 1/2 years, and dating my now wife, afforded me the opportunity to try several variations of cuisine.  None have I enjoyed more than Sushi.  Unfortunately, living in Hawaii, also made me a sushi snob.  You can imagine the amazing fresh fish that you get, it literally goes from ocean to plate in a matter of hours!  Having said that, Akasaka Restaurant in Alexandria, VA reminds me of that sushi.  This is, hands down, the freshest sushi you will get in this area. 

When you enter the restaurant you are welcomed with the traditional Japanese greeting of "Irrashaimase" an immediate indication that you are in the right place!  The staff bows when they finish speaking to you and it is considered polite to do so in return.  When you are seated, they bring you a complimentary starter dish to prepare you for the meal ahead.  It consists of a few pieces of edamame and some cream cheese and scallion gyoza.  The gyoza is so good that you should order it as an appetizer, which they offer.


Anything you order will be amazing but I believe that good sushi is defined by a select few items.  The most important of these is Maguro (Tuna) Sushi also known as Ahi Tuna.  The reason this is the cornerstone to great sushi is because of the simplicity of the dish.  It is nothing more than a delicate cut of fish with some rice.  The Maguro here is buttery soft and full of flavor.  We have to get it every time we eat here. 

The next is a Spider Roll for which the main component is soft-shell crab.  This is a difficult roll to make because the soft-shell crab is very easy to overcook.  They cook it to perfection at Akasaka and it is simply breathtaking.  (Hands down the best spider roll I have ever had!) 

A personal make or break is the Spicy Tuna Roll.  (Again a simple dish that consists of rice, nori [Seaweed], tuna, and spicy sauce.)  I am a complete snob when it comes to spicy tuna rolls and Akasaka delivers one of the finest.  Other sushi restaurants mask the flavor of the tuna with the spicy sauce and it completely takes away from the roll.  Akasaka offers the perfect medley of spice and tuna making it a personal favorite. 

The Hamachi Roll is another simple, delicious masterpiece.  It consists of yellow tail, nori, and rice.  One word, amazing.

We believe that although you have your "go to" favorites, you should try new things and last night was no exception.  We decided to try the Mexican Roll and in doing so, found another "go to" favorite.  It consists of spicy tuna, tobiko, avocado, and cucumber.  The avocado really sets this roll apart in both presentation and flavor.  This roll literally melts in your mouth and is one that I highly recommend.

As far as presentation goes, here is what it looked like.


The little dish on the side was a complimentary one from the chef.  It was a seared tuna and daikon radish salad.  Whatever sauce the chef used to tie it all together was brilliant!  The tuna was beautifully seared with a peppery finish and the daikon radish complimented the dish perfectly.  Unexpected and delicious!

Here is a link to their menu, although not complete.  http://akasakasushi.com/menu.html

You can find them at 514 South Van Dorn Street, Alexandria, VA 22304 and their hours are Mon. - Fri. 11:30am-2:30pm, 5pm-10pm; Sat 12pm-10pm; and Sun 4pm-9:30pm.

Insider tip:  They have half price a la carte items on Monday and man is it worth it!  You get the same meal but for half the cost!

Enjoy!!

-Chris

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